Workers from Groundforce, Globalia’s ground services subsidiary (‘handling’), at Madrid’s Adolfo Suárez-Barajas airport, have decided to start mobilizing to denounce the chaotic management of temporary contracts – denouncing both the company and the ‘works council’ (trade unions).
According to the organizers of this initiative, a group of fifty Barajas employees, the reason for the protests has been the passivity of the works council, led by UGT. The passive nature of the union led them to organize themselves as a workers’ assembly and call a first demonstration for the next Monday, October 5, at Terminal 2 in Barajas.
These protests come after two meetings, held in September, in which the need to change the way the temporary shifts are managed – workers are often given only three days notice regarding shift changes. Wages are often delayed. There is also an arbitrary allocation of shifts. Faced with this system, the workers’ assembly defends an equitable distribution of hours among all workers.
For the assembly, this precariousness of employment further aggravates the economic situation of the workforce. In fact, the agonizing situation that a growing number of employees are experiencing has led the assembly to take the initiative to create a food bank to help colleagues
Before the COVID-19 crisis broke out, Groundforce had a workforce of 3,700 employees and 180 million turnover.
Heathrow’s a huge workplace with big problems. Covid-19 has grounded fleets of planes, with all the predictable consequences for the airlines and their suppliers. With the same level of predictability, companies like British Airways, Gate Gourmet and Alpha LSG (airline caterers) are using the opportunity to slash staff numbers and hours, and attack remaining workers’ contracts. What with the climate catastrophe also looming, now is the time for a rank-and-file voice to challenge the notion that workers have to choose between (worsening) jobs, and their health and the future of the planet. We need to organise steps to counter the attack of the bosses.
Workers themselves need to lead the discussion about the future of their livelihoods and the planet. This is why we want to set up an independent workers’ coordination here. The aims of the group are to help develop and broaden the power of working class people. It should be a focal point for workers to get together and discuss their situation, devise strategies best suited to them, and then act. There are many different unions at Heathrow, but little unity. We have to organise across departments and professions. Through honest reflection of what’s happening on the ground, our victories and defeats, we can acquire the capabilities we need to build the genuine, bottom-up power in our workplaces and communities and retain the historic memory to sustain them.
With a Heathrow-focused solidarity network, we can link our workplaces with our homes and communities and address problems with housing, the job centre, the home office. By creating our own Heathrow newspaper we can share our experiences and ideas, and try and break down some of the barriers between different groups of workers. We should produce educational groups guided by the participants toward mutual aid. It can be a home where individuals can grow and feel safe.